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Fan of quick and easy pasta dinners? This sausage pappardelle bolognese is ridiculously tasty! The best part? You need just 6 main ingredients. Works well on the stove top or in a pressure cooker, and it’s perfect for freezing.
Make it either on the stove top or in the pressure cooker
This 6-ingredient sausage pappardelle bolognese was one of the first recipes I posted. I rambled a bit (OK, a lot), the photos were of questionable quality, and I mentioned Jamie Oliver a few too many times!
Can you believe it’s still one of our favourite go-to midweek meals?
All the more so now I have this Breville multi cooker. The sausage ragu sauce is very easy to make on the stove top, but it takes about half the time to cook if you use an electric pressure cooker (an Instant Pot or something similar!).
It’s my new kitchen toy, and truly a dinner time game changer! (along with my air fryer – not my model, but one I’d buy… – which I often use these days instead of turning on my oven)
Don’t worry – the recipe below includes both the stove top and pressure cooker instructions!
Why I still love this sausage pappardelle bolognese
- At the top of the list is this. It’s VERY tasty, especially if you buy excellent quality sausages with lots of flavour already in them. I usually go for ‘best quality’ Italian sausages. Above all, don’t buy budget sausages!
- You only need SIX main ingredients to make the sausage bolognese sauce. Of course I’m cheating a bit by calling it a 6-ingredient recipe, because I also usually add fennel seeds and a crispy breadcrumb topping. But as those 2 ingredients are optional, I decided it was an acceptable cheat.
- It’s a one pot meal (plus a saucepan for the pasta)! Bonus: the pot is easy to clean whether you make it on the stove or in your pressure cooker.
- It contains a whole bulb of fennel (hidden veggies!). Have you ever cooked with fennel before? It’s delicious! Sometimes I serve something like broccoli on the side, but if I don’t have anything in the fridge, at least I know there’s a vegetable in the bolognese.
- If you add the crispy crumbs and parmesan – which I highly recommend – this meal reaches next level deliciousness. Try it and see.
Erm… so what does fennel taste like?
The recipe contains a lot of fresh fennel. Before I made this sausage ragu for the first time, I don’t think I’d ever tasted fennel, let alone cooked with it. Once I did though I was an instant convert.
Worried that it tastes too much like aniseed? It doesn’t. It has a very subtle aniseed flavour similar to what you get in some Italian sausages. Which is why it works so well in this recipe.
If you really like this flavour, definitely add the optional fennel seeds.
You only need these 6 main ingredients
- a whole bulb of fennel
- good quality sausages
- fresh rosemary
- passata (US = tomato sauce)
- red wine
- pappardelle pasta (although of course you can use any pasta you like)
You can also sprinkle the top of your sausage bolognese with some crispy panko breadcrumbs and parmesan – for a delicious contrast of textures.
Entirely optional, but highly recommended!
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty…
How to make sausage pappardelle bolognese step-by-step
Chop the fennel bulb exactly as you would an onion. You can discard the long bits, but make sure you save some of the green fronds for sprinkling over the finished dish (photos 1-2).
Squeeze the sausages out of their casings and into a heavy based pan/pressure cooker bowl with a little pre-heated oil. Let them cook for a few minutes, then squish them with a potato masher – much easier than breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon! (photos 3-5)
Add a couple of small sprigs of fresh rosemary and (optional) some fennel seeds (photo 6).
Add red wine mixed with passata / tomato sauce (US) and water, then either let bubble away on the stove top for about an hour (although you could get away with a bit less time than this!) or pressure cook for just 20 minutes. I use the ‘bolognese’ setting on my wonderful electric pressure cooker and it comes out perfectly! (photos 7-9)
While your pasta – preferably pappardelle – is cooking, quickly crisp up some panko breadcrumbs in a little olive oil (photo 11).
Serve the sauce over bowls of hot pasta. Warning: you generally need far less pasta per person than you think! These days I usually use just one ‘nest’ of pappardelle each (photo 12).
Sprinkle some of the crispy panko crumbs and some grated parmesan over each bowl of pasta and sauce.
Don’t forget to scatter a few of the reserved fennel fronds over too – just to make it look pretty!
So what’s pappardelle, anyway?
Pappardelle is a bit like tagliatelle but wider.
Fun fact: the word pappardelle comes from the Italian verb ‘pappare’, which means ‘to gobble up’!
If you can’t find pappardelle, any larger pasta shapes will work well. In a pinch, even plain old spaghetti will be fine.
As the ragu sauce is super rich and tasty, I prefer to use pasta that has a bit of thickness and ‘bite’ to it.
Not just a pasta sauce
As well as using this sausage bolognese as a pasta sauce, you could also use it:
- as a pizza topping (apologies for the rambling and awful photos in this post – also needs an update!)
- over a baked potato
- with rice or nachos on the side
- as a lasagna sauce (why not?)
Good quality meat!
Lately, I prefer to buy less meat, but of better quality. I often buy it at a farmer’s market, which has great quality local meat. But what if you don’t have a good farmer’s market, or you don’t have time to go?
If you’re in the UK, you might like to check out the award-winning Riverford [affiliate link]. They have a wide selection of free range and organic meat, or you can order great value veggie, salad, dairy, and recipe boxes, and much more.
Equipment I use
potato masher (!)
Lodge cast iron Dutch oven (for the stove top version)
More easy sausage recipes
Easy baked gnocchi with sausage, peppers and tomatoes (30 minute meal)
More quick pasta dinners
Creamy chicken, bacon and mushroom orzo (one pot meal!)
Easy pasta alla norma (tomato and eggplant pasta)
Don’t forget to gobble it all up!
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6-ingredient sausage pappardelle bolognese (stove top and pressure cooker)
Equipment (affiliate links)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 bulb fennel chopped like an onion
- 14 ounces pork sausages (I use six good quality Italian sausages)
- 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 cup red wine (pressure cooker: ½ cup)
- 3 1/2 cups passata (US = tomato sauce) (pressure cooker: 1 cup)
- 1 cup water (pressure cooker: ½ cup)
- 3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs (roughly)
- grated parmesan cheese
- salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 8 ounces pappardelle pasta (about 1 'nest' per person – trust me, this is enough!)
- toasted Italian bread with olive oil & salt optional (but sooo delicious!)
- Trim the long part of the fennel off the bulb and put aside. Chop the very end off the bulb, then cut into fine pieces, like an onion.
- Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan/cast iron pan, or the bowl of an electric pressure cooker. Squeeze the meat out of the skin and into the hot pan/bowl.
- Cook the sausage for a few minutes until white, then mash it with a potato masher until it looks like ground meat.
- Add the chopped fennel, the fennel seeds (if using) and the rosemary and let cook for about five minutes longer.
- Pour in the wine, passata/tomato sauce and water (note different amounts if using pressure cooker). Leave to cook gently for about an hour (stove top). If using a pressure cooker, choose the 'bolognese' setting, or manually set it for 20 minutes followed by 'auto quick' pressure release. Reduce the liquid for a few minutes using the 'reduce' or 'saute' setting. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- About ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan/skillet. Fry the panko crumbs for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until they are crispy.
- Divide the pasta between your plates, then ladle the bolognese sauce on top. Sprinkle with the crumbs, grated parmesan, and some green fronds from the fennel.
A note on making this on the stove top vs. in an electric pressure cookerBoth ways of cooking will yield excellent results, but obviously the pressure cooker method will be a bit quicker (about 35 minutes vs. 1 hour actual cooking time). I use the ‘bolognese’ setting on my pressure cooker. It’s 20 minutes of actual cooking time, but there’s also pre-heating and de-pressurizing time to add to that (so all in all you’re looking at about 35 minutes in the pressure cooker). If your electric pressure cooker doesn’t have a bolognese setting, manually set it to 20 minutes, and ‘auto quick’ pressure release. Sometimes I reduce my bolognese sauce a little after it’s cooked (for 2 to 3 minutes) on the ‘reduce’ setting. The saute setting will work for this too.
A note for bolognese snobs & general perfectionists!Use the best quality sausages you can find. I don’t think it matters too much whether you use red or white wine – just use whichever you prefer or have. Make sure the breadcrumbs are nice and crispy and you put plenty on top of each dish … it really makes the dish, in my opinion! Serve with toasted Italian-style bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. A bit indulgent, but just delicious!
A note on freezing this sausage bolognese sauceThis bolognese sauce freezes really well. Simply let cool and freeze in sealed glass containers. This recipe is very easily doubled or even tripled if you want to stock up your freezer!
Note: This post was first published in 2014. It has been updated (2019) to include new photos and text, a how-to video, and an alternative cooking method using an electric pressure cooker.